Chinese firm Netcom (nothing to do with Netcommunities, our publisher) has managed to cram an 8GB flash memory and NFC electronics and antenna into a microSD card.
This is by far the smallest implementation of a removable near field communication module we've seen yet and paves the way for some very interesting applications including adding NFC capabilities to phones (and tablets and ultrabooks) with a microSD card reader.
Netcom's Dan Lau told us that the card doesn't currently have any direct competitor on the market, that it may cost around $30 for OEMs/ODMs and that they are already in talks with a number of phone manufacturers to integrate their technology into handsets by the end of the year.
Somehow Netcom has been able to pack the entire antenna coil into the surface area of the microSD card, which means that the reader may fail to communicate with the antenna if it has a small sensing area.
Netcom also told us that the microSD card slot as well as the back of the phone should not be made out of metal to avoid interference and that that the NFC card should ideally not be positioned beneath the battery.
In a short demo, Lau pulled up a Java app that is designed to run in the background and serves as the gateway between the phone and the NFC-microSD card. An Android-compatible solution is also in the pipeline and the card supports GP and OTA servers for downloading applications.
Netcom's solution is an elegant short term solution but it is not the only one on the market. Devicefidelity launched In2Pay microSD in March 2010 which serves the same purpose but without the 8GB memory. It also doesn't need any app to be installed on the phone and supports Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone and Blackberry (but no Android).
In the long run though, most mobile handsets will come with built-in NFC capabilities (either via the SIM card or the SoC like in ST-Ericsson's case) making Netcom's nifty little solution redundant at least when it comes to handsets.